Brent Derkatch

Modern seed varieties are redefining what it means to get a “good yield.” But quality attributes are becoming increasingly important in some surprising ways. I’ve seen this trend develop over time.

Not long ago, yield was the topic of the day among seed growers, farmers and end users. Around the time the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly came to an end, the pendulum swung. Under the CWB, everyone was focused primarily on high-quality CWRS. After the end of the CWB, the focus shifted to different and unique quality attributes, and the ability to be more creative with variety-specific opportunities.

Today, we’ve seen that these opportunities can be hard to manage in our grain handling system, and the focus may have shifted again.

As far as wheat goes, yield is king. In Manitoba these last couple of years, some of the more popular wheat varieties have been the ones in the new Canada Northern Hard Red class, which do have some yield advantage.

But quality attributes are also important in wheat. A good example is Canada Western Amber durum wheat being used for couscous made in some African countries, due to a higher amount of yellow pigment in the wheat grain. Wheat in the Canada Western Red Spring class plays an important role for me in my job, as it’s prized by a lot of the end users I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with, like Warburtons Bakery in the United Kingdom.

The evolution of the grain handling industry has also affected the pendulum that has swung between the importance placed on yield and quality attributes. Over the last two decades we have seen the development of large inland terminals. The ability to segregate specific products is not easy in large terminals. You need a certain volume to justify that segregation in the elevator, and that factors in to some of the variety-specific opportunities we now see.

Yield and agronomy will always be the two factors that concern end users when it comes to wheat. The question is which way the pendulum will swing in the future, and how we’ll continue to ensure we strike a good balance between the two.

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